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Story Archives: Because of God's love, we are everything that matters
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|Because of God's love, we are everything that matters|
ost of us are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, better known as the "Love Chapter." We probably hear it most often during a wedding ceremony where the atmosphere is magical and perfect. But what does it mean the rest of the time for those of us trying to survive in "the real world"?
What does "If I have not love I am nothing" say to that person whose marriage has ended? How is "love endures all things" supposed to be interpreted by the person in an abusive relationship? How can "love is not resentful" be digested by the person who should have gotten the promotion but was instead laid off?
Even when our relationships are strong and healthy and our lives are good, we still have trouble with always being patient and kind. We sometimes experience jealousy and we are sometimes rude. We don't always get it right. Maybe that's why we're more comfortable leaving 1 Corinthians 13 inside the wedding chapel.
Surely, I'm not the only one who has struggled with Paul's "love chapter." Why would Paul, of all people, write such a thing? In this letter Paul addresses immoral behavior, immaturity, instability, jealousy, lawsuits, marital problems, envy, division and the misuse of spiritual gifts. Oddly enough, in the middle of all this chaos he offers a beautiful wedding poem. What's up with that?
Have you ever stopped to consider Paul's personal life? He never married and he never raised a family. As a matter of fact he has very strong views concerning marriage. Is it possible Paul never intended on writing a wedding poem? Is it possible Paul looks at the city of Corinth, this crossroads for travelers where slavery is rampant and young children are being exploited in the name of religion, and says, "This is not how God intends for us to live."?
One day I was outside the mall. Walking towards me was a young woman. She seemed to be drenched with worthlessness. As she lowered her head she seemed to have an expression that apologized for living. I wanted to demonstrate, in some small way, that I respected her. I decided I would move off of the sidewalk and let her pass. To my misfortune, she beat me to it.
A week or so later, on the same sidewalk, I came upon a person who seemed a bit conceited and definitely had an over-emphasized swagger in her walk. This time I noticed that I was the one who slowly lowered my head. I wanted to make sure I wasn't wearing my church name badge because there was no way I was moving off the sidewalk.
Then it hit me. Both scenes offered me the opportunity to demonstrate the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 and I missed it both times. Who can love everyone all the time? So I read the chapter again. "If I speak… but have not love. If I give…but have not love." Paul doesn't mention giving love or showing love. Instead he writes about having a perfect love — God's love.
Is it possible this chapter is about how I treat the check-out clerk who won't get off the cell phone long enough to help me? Or how I snub the guy who sleeps under the bridge? Or how I judge the driver who refuses to use a blinker? I soon realized that Chapter 13 describes a heart growing in God's love. Paul is painting a picture of a love that is more than an emotion, more than a reward and more than a motive.
Paul is right; "If I have not love, I am nothing." Yet because of God's love, we are everything that matters — forgiven, cherished, redeemed… This is why that divorced person can eventually move into a new life. It is how that abused person moves towards safety and healing. This is why, no matter how unfair life has been, one can eventually find hope for tomorrow.
One writer penned this thought: "Rather than let this scripture remind us of a love that we cannot produce, let it remind us a love we cannot resist — God's Love."
Jo Ann Cooper is a United Methodist pastor of the LA Conference.